These days, it seems that just about everything is wireless. But to take advantage of the fast Internet now available in most homes and businesses, a wired network often will allow you to achieve speeds much closer to the promised maximum.
What Is A Patch Panel?
If you want to set up a wired network that includes multiple wall ports in various rooms, a patch panel in a central location can provide a simple, neat and easy-to-manage solution. So what is a patch panel you ask? A patch panel is essentially an array of ports on one panel. Each port connects, via a patch cable, to another port located elsewhere in your building.
How Do Patch Panels Work?
Patch panels bundle multiple network ports together to connect incoming and outgoing lines — including those for local area networks, electronics, electrical systems and communications. When patch panels are part of a LAN, they can connect computers to other computers and to outside lines. Those lines, in turn, allow LANs to connect to wide area networks or to the Internet. To arrange circuits using a patch panel, you simply plug and unplug the appropriate patch cords. Troubleshooting problems are simplified with patch panels since they provide a single location for all input jacks. They're frequently used in industries that require extensive sound equipment because they work well for connecting a variety of devices.
Copper or Fiber?
Patch panels can be part of networks with either fiber or copper cabling. While fiber is much faster than copper, networking professionals disagree on whether the materials show significant performance differences in patch panels. The primary role of the panels is to direct signal traffic rather than move signal at a required speed. There's no question, however, that fiber panels cost more. All patch panels are subject to the same standards that provide signal and speed performance ratings for other network components.
Using Patch Panels
If you can wire an Ethernet jack, you can wire a patch panel. You'll simply need to repeat the sequence multiple times for your various ports. A patch panel with eight ports should suffice for most home networks, but it's easy to expand when you need more capacity. Panels with eight to 24 ports are readily available, and you can make use of multiple panels together to create a larger one. If you're putting together a home or business network, can you get the job done without patch panels? Certainly, since patch panels serve more as a convenience than necessity. But by incorporating a patch panel——or several——you can expect better cable management and easier fixes when a network component inevitably breaks down.
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